The Pittsburgh Pirates made their 40-man roster additions today, adding Austin Meadows, Dario Agrazal, and Luis Escobar to protect each player from the upcoming Rule 5 draft. Meadows and Escobar were expected additions, while Agrazal was part of a larger group of players who were on the fringe.

Meadows was an easy choice to make, since he could have been in the majors this year if it weren’t for injuries delaying his development. He should get another shot next year, with the hope that he can stay healthy and finish his development in the minors. He still remains in the plans as a future starter in Pittsburgh’s outfield.

Escobar is one of the better arms in the lower levels, featuring some of the best strikeout ability in the system. He’s got a few years of development remaining, with the main focus being his control issues. He should go to Bradenton in 2018, and might have a shot at Altoona in the second half if he gets things figured out.

In my preview, I pointed out Tyler Eppler, Adrian Valerio, and Eduardo Vera as guys who could be protected. All three would rank in our top 50 prospect group, with Eppler being a guy who can help as MLB depth in 2018. Valerio and Vera provided the challenge of protecting several options from the lower levels, when paired with Escobar. Of the three, the guy I think would be most likely to be taken is Eppler, who is a hard-throwing right-hander who could be a bullpen option right now.

The Pirates instead opted to protect Agrazal, who is another hard-throwing right-hander, getting up to 97 MPH with his sinker this year. Agrazal shows impressive control and a lot of movement on his pitches, while also working to improve his breaking pitch this year. He did suffer an injury in the second half, but that’s not a long-term issue. It only shortened his time in Altoona after a promotion. He’s got the upside to at least be a future relief option in the majors, although that won’t happen in 2018. He should start back in Altoona, with the chance to move to Indianapolis by the end of the year.

There were four open spots on the 40-man roster prior to these moves. The Pirates also traded Gift Ngoepe for a player to be named later or cash considerations, opening another spot. There are now two spots open.

UPDATE: 7:20 PM: John Dreker talked with Luis Escobar after he got the news of being added to the 40-man roster. Escobar was obviously excited, as he told John, who provided the translation:

“First of all, I’m grateful to God for giving me this great opportunity and also with the Pirates for trusting me, therefore I’m very happy”

The addition to the 40-man roster will get all of these players automatic invitations to Major League Spring Training.

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40 COMMENTS

  1. Did they also protect Cunningham? I don’t think Vera will be selected in the draft. However, you can never tell what another team is looking for or who they will select.

  2. I also wonder if we might try to sogn Appel to a minor league deal? We got lucky, because we used that money (if I remember correctly) on Moroff and then drafted Meadows with the comp pick next year.

    I sure wish Houston had taken Bryant and the Cubs taken Appel, but noooooo.

  3. Blue Jays have outrighted Harold Ramirez. Will NH be tempted to add him to the 40 man? I doubt it, because he is only in AA amd would have to be outrighted off of our 40 man.

        • The comparison truly is uncanny.

          I generally *hate* player-to-player comps but player-type or player-profile comps truly can be instructive, and it simply doesn’t get any more similar than these two. The classic tweener outfielder – not enough defense for CF, not enough power for a corner – and they even had similar stocky builds.

          Not that this prospect type *never* succeeds, but maybe try capitalizing when the stock is high next time?

      • Actually, at the time of the deal, when I heard that Ramirez was in the deal, I was fine. It was when McGuire got included that blew my gasket. 🙂

        • McGuire was my favorite in the deal, as well. But, at the time of the trade, he appeared to be a great-defending catcher, without power, who couldn’t hit his weight…and he was pretty skinny.

          Rameriz, at the time, seemed much more likely to make the majors, though RM seemed to have more upside if he could overcome the problems at the plate.

          • One of the big problems with looking at this deal now instead of then is that both Ramirez and McGuire had major knee issues. Ramirez blew out his knee during his first game with the Blue Jays, he couldn’t even play winter ball and he barely ran this year. You can’t assume he would have blown out his knee diving for a ball with the Pirates too. McGuire needed knee surgery and cost him a good portion of this season. Again, it was something that happened with the Blue Jays, so assuming both would have happened had they stayed is very unlikely.

            Now the deal looks much better because you have someone who uses speed and another one who is a catcher both have knee injuries. McGuire got hurt right after the trade too, although it was a minor injury that they didn’t announce why he went on the DL. Injuries have clearly helped the Pirates look better than they originally did in the deal (even Liriano was on the DL)

  4. Could the combination of being under the 40 man cap, and leaving some of these guys off the list signal that they could be active in trades this offseason? And from what I remember (I could be wrong) without Harrison (a fan favorite) having a promotion event? Nor does Cole? Just wondering if leaving the space open allows for the incoming possible 40 man additions?

    Just a thought

  5. So did Pirates protecting Agrazal over Vera surprise you, Tim? I don’t think I saw his name getting mentioned a lot on your article about rule 5 eligible players.

    • I thought Agrazal was a possibility because he is a more advanced (in the system) version of Vera. Agrazal throws a little bit harder 94-96, T97 vs 93-95, T97. Both have above average control and both developed a strikeout pitch this year. Agrazal is actually younger by half a year too. I talked to scouts who liked him last year and until his injury, he had shown improvements. The injury and time missed made him iffy as an addition, but not a bad one in my opinion

      • Oh, huh, I thought it was the other way round. Thought Vera was the more advanced version of Agrazal but with worse stuff.

        Since they now have two open spots, seems like they’ll get one FA and one rule 5 addition maybe

      • I guess it’s possible to DFA him if he bombs in Bradenton and not burn through his options and get more development time. Him being Escobar.

    • I realize I’m not Tim but I agree Vera seems like he could move quickly due to his control and velo. Escobar has a far lower floor. I like what I’ve heard about Agrazal and I’m all 4 it as a possible good call.

  6. Gotta think Eppler is going to get snatched up. He’s not a crucial piece to the Pirates at all, but with teams expanding their bullpens, he’ll be wanted somewhere.

    • Perhaps but I don’t think Eppler would last a whole year with whatever team claims him if he does get taken. He doesn’t have the huge upside of a guy a rebuilding club would take just to have for the future and true contenders have a lot of options in free agency for relievers. Maybe one of the Florida teams would though as a source of cheap innings, who knows.

      • Yeah, as I said, I don’t think he’s a special piece.

        But when you’ve got teams talking about 8 man bullpens…meh, someone will probably take a stab…even if he’s just your #8 mop-up guy. Heck, might as well get him for league-minimum if you can and see if he gets better.

        • Yeudy would be the guy to take in this case, IMO.

          99 with life and a bat-missing slider, plus three years of up-and-down options to get the command smoothed out enough to play in the 7th inning.

          Seems like teams have more success taking a guy with stuff and teaching command than the opposite.

          • That’s a possibility, but I’m more a fan of experience…especially for someone who’s not going to contribute too much…and I don’t think either will. I’m thinking the tipping point might be Eppler’s got about twice the experience at AAA that Garcia does at AA…I’ve gotta think that makes him more attractive.

            We’ll see, though. Maybe one, maybe both…perhaps neither get taken…so long as it’s not the latter, one of us will have something to crow about 🙂

            • My stance on the R5 is all about upside, both selecting and protecting.

              You lose a fungible up-and-down middle reliever, which is the *best case* for Eppler, nobody is going to worry. You lose Josh Hamilton or Obdubel Herrera and people write about your error for years. That can’t be fun.

            • Checked with who?

              Baseball Prospectus had him sitting 94-95, t96 *as a starter* in June and then sitting 99 out of the pen in September.

      • I don’t think any Rule 5 player has a huge upside. They can become an elite MLB player but the odds are against it.

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